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A Peek Inside L.A. Live's ESPN Zone

By Eric Richardson
Published: Tuesday, December 16, 2008, at 05:39PM
ESPN Zone, L.A. Live Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Entering the front door of L.A. Live's ESPN Zone, patrons have the choice of visiting the restaurant and Collection store downstairs or the Sports Arena game room and Hole 19 bar upstairs.

It's only been open three weeks, but the ESPN Zone at L.A. Live is already doing numbers comparable to some of the stronger stores in the chain. The restaurant, which can seat 700, was the first to open in the $2.5 billion entertainment complex and features four bars, two distinct dining areas and a massive game room.

This morning, blogdowntown met up with General Manager Eric Levitt to take a tour around the facility and give those of you who haven't made it in a look at what they've got going on.

There are two fundamental numbers when it comes to ESPN Zone: fourteen and sixteen.

Fourteen is the number of beers on tap. Beer makes up fifty percent of sales at the restaurant.

Sixteen is the number of DirecTV receivers on site, which equates the number of different feeds available for distribution to TVs around the facility.

There's a production manager on-site at all times, making sure the right content's going to the right screens and that the technology is working according to plan. He manages all that from a control booth above the restaurant's entryway, where a computer system can route any feed to any screen in the venue.

Want to know what games are going to be shown? If it's on TV anywhere, chances are it'll be on at ESPN Zone. The programmer compiles the lineup from a daily satellite sheet and schedules which games are going to appear on which screens. Potential visitors can call the day before to find out where their game is playing.

In the Screening Room, ground-zero for game watching, a line of 50" screens sit atop a trio of larger displays. Two 103" panels flank a massive center screen made out of three 103" panels turned vertically and joined together. It's a cool concept, but one that didn't quite work out. The bezels between the panels cause split-screen talking heads to go faceless. Levitt says discussions on a replacement are underway.

Upstairs, the main feature is a large game room, dubbed the Sports Arena. It wraps around the corner and features sports-themed games like free throw shooting, racing, mini-bowling and boxing. Rates vary depending on how many points one puts onto a game card, and discounts are available via the MVP Card, available free on the ESPN Zone website.

Levitt is a gamer himself, and said that he makes sure to play every game at least once a week to make sure that it's performing correctly. He then relays his findings to the on-site game technician.

When the ESPN production facility upstairs is up and running in 2009, guests at the restaurant will be able to get a feed showing what's going on in each of the four studios. ESPN Radio will also be broadcasting from the facility; a large radio booth is currently being built out adjacent to the Screening Room.

For those looking to camp out during the Super Bowl or March Madness, ESPN Zone charges minimums (such as $10 per person, per hour) during heavy times. While certainly part of the goal is to make sure a couple cheapskates don't sit drinking waters during the whole game, the minimums also help make sure that those who visit during heavy times are able to get a table without waiting forever.

The restaurant doesn't take reservations, but MVP card members can request priority seating a day in advance.

ESPN Zone at L.A. Live / Figueroa at Chick Hearn / 213-765-7070


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